The company warned in its Container Insight Weekly newsletter that the window for carriers to take advantage of deferrals may not last too long if government stimulus has the desired effect and rekindles the shipbuilding industry in major shipbuilding centres such as South Korea, China and Japan.
Last October, the South Korean Government said it would spend US$9.6 billion through 2020 to stimulate the industry.
However, Drewry said: "The chances of the orderbook flashing back into life are not high. Yards will probably have to offer very big discounts to attract new orders, which could lead to some unnecessary orders the industry could do without."
Two carriers that are seeking to grow are Hyundai Merchant Marine and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL).
It is possible that shipyards may depend on other sorts of vessels for recovery such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers and floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs).
Drewry said data from Clarksons Research Services has illustrated that 4 million gross metric tonnes of new ship orders were placed in 2016, down from 25 million gross metric tonnes in 2015 and a five-year peak of 56 million gross metric tonnes in 2013.
"The vulnerable position of the shipyards gives containership operator-owners a window of opportunity to smooth out the delivery of the newbuilds to which they are committed and to massage the supply/demand balance more in their favour," Drewry said.
According to Drewry, Maersk had earlier said that it was delaying delivery of some of the 14,000-TEU ships it has on order from Hyundai Heavy Industries without incurring additional cost, the American Shipper reported.
That leaves "approximately 1.6 million TEU worth of new containership capacity scheduled for delivery in 2017, which includes some carried over from 2016," Drewry said. "That is still an awful lot of additional capacity to absorb in one go, especially for an already over-supplied market that has had to idle over 1 million TEU of unwanted ships."
In addition, Drewry said the problem for carriers is exacerbated because nearly two-thirds of the 2017 newbuilds are 10,000-TEU or above in size, which limits the deployment options and "forces ever greater cascading of older ships into trades that are not ready for them."
"To ensure that the nascent recovery of the market is not scuppered, carriers need to follow Maersk's lead by smoothing the supply-side pressures as much as possible by deferring new ships and scrapping more existing units," Drewry concluded.